SPAIN is leading the way as consumer and industry confidence continues to grow about the future.
In December the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) increased by 1.6 points in the euro area (to 100.0) and 1.4 points in the EU (to 103.5). Sentiment in the euro area is thus back to its long-term average for the first time since July 2011. In the EU, the average had already been passed in September.
In the euro area, the marked improvement resulted from rising confidence among consumers, as well as managers in services, retail trade, construction and, to a lesser extent, industry. Economic sentiment improved in three of the five largest economies, namely Spain (+4.0), Italy (+2.3) and the Netherlands (+1.5), while remaining virtually unchanged in Germany and France (both +0.3).
Industry confidence increased moderately (+0.5), driven by more positive assessments of the current level of overall order books and the stocks of finished products, which were somewhat counter-balanced by deteriorating production expectations.
Of the survey questions not included in the confidence indicator, managers’ assessment of the current level of export order books remained unchanged, while it worsened in the case of past production.
Services confidence rose (+1.1) as a result of significantly improved assessments of the past business situation and past demand, which contrasted with slightly deteriorating demand expectations. Consumer confidence picked up (+1.8), thanks to more optimistic views of households on the future general economic situation, their unemployment expectations and, to a lesser extent, their savings over the next 12 months.
Consumers’ opinions about the future financial situation of their households remained broadly unchanged. Retail trade confidence increased substantially (+2.7), driven by managers’ surging optimism about the future business situation and, to a lesser extent, improving appraisals of the present business situation and the volume of stocks.
Also sentiment in construction improved significantly (+3.6), fuelled by managers’ improved appraisal of order books and less pessimistic employment expectations. Financial services confidence (not included in the ESI) increased by 2.0 points, driven by a markedly improved assessment of past demand, which more than outweighed managers’ grimmer views on the past business situation and demand expectations.
In the wider EU, the improvement in sentiment was only slightly less pronounced than in the euro area (+1.4). On a sector basis, developments in the EU deviated from the euro area in so far as industry confidence remained unchanged and the surge in sentiment was considerably higher in retail trade, while lower in construction.
On a country basis, the main reason for the slightly weaker improvement in sentiment was a virtually unchanged confidence level in the largest non-euro area EU economy, the UK (-0.1). The EU financial services confidence indicator improved at a slower pace than in the euro area (+0.5).